Panama Gene and the Flow Control Victory

Fresh off his economic development trip to Central America, Escambia County Commission Chairman Gene Valentino is jazzed about possible opportunities locally.

“Contrary to the pundits, I was not on the beach sunning myself,” he said this morning during the commission’s agenda review session.

Valentino recently visited Panama, where he met with government and port officials. He’s hoping to facilitate shipping opportunities in Escambia.

The chairman said that the local area needed to invest in its port, as well as infrastructure associated with the port. He said the area stood to gain not only increased shipping opportunities, but also would benefit from businesses relocating or starting in the area as a result of the increased shipping activity.

Also during this morning’s session, the board discussed the recent ruling in West Florida Recycling, LLC. v. Escambia County, Florida. A federal judge has ruled that the county’s flow control ordinance—which dictates that waste collected in the area be taken to a county landfill—is not unconstitutional.

WFR argued that the ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and discriminated against interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak disagreed.

Commissioners noted that the ruling bodes well for the county’s current disagreement with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, which has contracted with a private company to transform trash into a usable fuel; the venture would divert Escambia largest customer away from the Perdido Landfill.

Interim County Administrator George Touart referred to the ruling as “a big victory,” and Valentino called it “very good news.” Commissioner Grover Robinson said he hoped the ruling would bring ECUA Board Chairman Larry Walker back to the negotiating table.

The county commission meets this afternoon for its regular meeting, at 5:30 p.m. at the Escambia County Government Building. Public forum begins at 4:30 p.m.